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Education Advocates React to Newly Released NAEP Scores

by Heather Kays
The Heartland Institute
April 29, 2015

The latest 8th grade U.S. history, civics, and geography results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), released Wednesday, April 29, showed no significant change from the last assessment in 2010.

For 2014, the NAEP scores show only 18 percent of students scored proficient in U.S. history, 23 percent in civics, and 27 percent in geography.

Neal McCluskey, associate director of the Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom describes the NAEP scores released today as “bleak.”

“The scores weren’t particularly surprising,” said McCluskey. “We’ve known for quite some time that American students have pretty poor historical, geographical, and civic knowledge, and nothing has happened since 2010 that should have radically changed that. Indeed, the focus on mathematics and reading, to the possible detriment of history and civics, may have been amplified a bit with the move to Common Core standards, though since the advent of NCLB math and reading have been essentially the first and last words in school ‘success.’”

School Choice as a Solution

Kara Kerwin, president of the Center for Education Reform says parents need additional educational options for their children if scores such as these are ever to improve.

“It’s appalling that not even 30 percent of our nation’s 8th graders are proficient in subjects like civics and history that are so fundamental to our nation’s founding and democracy,” said Kerwin. “If we don’t act now and take bold steps to empower parents and accelerate the pace at which they have access to opportunities that dramatically change their children’s learning outcomes, we will not be able to move our nation forward.”

Underachievement in the Middle Class

Koret Senior Fellow and Senior Director of Education Studies at the Pacific Research Institute Lance Izumi, says the unimpressive NAEP scores are an indication many parents believe their

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NAEP Long-Term Trends in Reading & Math

The National Assessment of Academic Progress (NAEP) has tracked student performance since the early 1970s. This tracking helps reveal how one demographic group of students is doing compared to another demographic group, and has certainly helped America realize it has an achievement gap.

Data indicates the achievement gap is narrowing between white students and minority students, however studies such as this one from the Council on Foreign relations indicate we are still not doing enough to ensure the success of future generations.

Download or print your PDF copy of 2012 NAEP Long-Term Trends: Math
Download or print your PDF copy of 2012 NAEP Long-Term Trends: Reading

NAEP: More of the Same

Nation’s Report Card study reveals mega-states lagging national average despite modest gains

Less than 40 percent of our nation’s 4th and 8th graders are proficient in math and reading. A closer look at the 2011 results of the five states with the largest public school student populations reveals these mega-states generally do not perform better than the nation’s average, but there have been modest achievement gains.

The National Assessment of Education Progress http://nationsreportcard.gov/megastates/(NAEP) Mega-States report showcases student results in California, Florida, Illinois, New York and Texas. Collectively, these mega-states represent 40 percent of the nation’s public school students. This report analyzed math and reading scores from 1992 until 2011 and science scores over the last two tests. Four out of the five mega-states had scores higher than the U.S. average in at least one grade level and one subject. Only California performed worse than the nation’s average across the board.

Some states have had greater score gains since 1992 on the math and reading tests, but there’s still a long way to go in terms student comprehension and achievement. Florida showed the most gains in reading for 4th and 8th graders, with average score increases of 16 and eight, respectively, and tied for most gain on 4th grade math. Only Texas in 8th grade math had higher gains over time than Florida.

“This in-depth analysis of The Nation’s Report Card demonstrates the need for bold and aggressive change,” said Jeanne Allen, president of the Center for Education Reform. “Complacency and mediocrity over the past two decades has starved our nation’s students of their basic rights to knowledge. It is time to accelerate the pace of reform. Our children and economic future depend on it.”

NAEP Writing Results

National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released the 2011 writing results mid-September 2012. The test is given to 24,000 8th graders and 28,000 12th graders in both public and private schools. This is the first computer based test NAEP has done, so for that reason, there are no comparisons to past writing tests.

The results are unfortunately substandard as usual. For both 8th grade and 12th grade, only 27% scored proficient or above. It is depressing to report that this means only about half of the nation’s student population only has a basic knowledge and understanding of writing. Basic achievement is defined as “partial mastery of prerequisite knowledge and skills that are fundamental for proficient work at each grade,” which, in other words, means not at grade level. What’s worse is that about 20% of students scored below this basic level.

The results also indicate a gap between economic groups, as measured by the federal standard of free and reduced lunch participants. Students participating in federal program scored 27 points lower than those that did not.

See results in greater detail and a statement from NCES Commissioner Jack Buckley on the NCES website.

NAEP Science Results Nothing to Write Home About

The 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) science results show gains compared to 2009, but the scores are still “no cause for optimism.” Just thirty-two percent of eighth graders scored at or above proficient, a 2 percent increase from 2009. That means 68% of our nation’s eighth graders lack a basic understanding of physical, life, Earth, and space sciences.

“This performance won’t get us where we need to go to create the science-literate workforce we need,” Gerry Wheeler, interim executive director of the National Science Teachers Association, tells the Wall Street Journal.

This certainly doesn’t come as a shock to anyone that saw the 2011 NAEP math and reading scores.

The same message from Jeanne Allen, president of the Center for Education Reform, regarding reading and math results holds true for these science scores.

“Our nation’s students can’t afford for us to sit idly by while another year passes with relatively no improvements. The Nation’s Report Card demonstrates the status quo does not work. We must overhaul our educational system. We need revolutionary change, if we want to break free from the failing trends of the past and truly celebrate student achievement.”

“The longer we wait – the longer we let achievement flatline – the further we’ll find ourselves at the bottom of the list of powerful, even worth mentioning, economies.” Certainly something presidential hopefuls should be paying attention to, and talking about, during their campaigns.

NAEP Math Scores 2009

Download or print your PDF copy of NAEP Math Scores 2009

NAEP Flatline Highlights Ed Reform Need

By Jeanne Allen
National Journal
November 8, 2011

It’s hard to believe we even need to have a debate on whether or not — and how — the paltry results of the 2011 National Assessment of Education Progress, or The Nation’s Report Card, have an impact on policy decisions among our local, state and national leaders and what we should learn from those results. Consider what the data really shows:

Barely one percentage point gain overall compared to 2009 scores; specifically 4th- and 8th grade math was only one point higher as was 8th-grade reading. There were no gains in 4th-grade reading.

A persistent achievement gap that still represents a 25-point spread between black and white students, and 20%or higher in some cases between white and Hispanic.

Forty-two states have shown no significant improvement on either test since 2009.

Not to sound flippant, but I don’t really care what our goals are as a nation or locally, as long as we have fewer than 40% of our students in all but a few cases able to meet proficiency standards that are arguably less rigorous than the NAEP of old. Indeed, while it’s still the gold standard and exposes state tests for being inflated and lacking real meaning, NAEP has had it’s own roll backs so even a point here or there is nothing to cheer.

Beyond being a reminder that flatlining is not a good thing; there is also an important takeaway from the data when you scratch below the surface. Like both SAT and ACT results which, while not samples, also show stagnant results, NAEP scores among those who many believe have great schools at their disposal remain well below standards. While we must work hardest to improve conditions for our disadvantaged youth, we should be alarmed that white student progress remains alarmingly low considering

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State, National Results Mixed: Latest Results on Nation’s Report Card Underscore Uniquely American Problem

While increased student achievement is and should be the major goal of school reform efforts, recent data revealing our students’ lagging civics knowledge – particularly in a time of increased international and national uncertainty – stands out as a continual black mark on the US and thus on its economic and national security.

According to an evaluation of civics test scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, students are not learning the skills critical to being responsible citizens in America’s democracy.

“We as a nation are well below our goal,” said Jeanne Allen, president of The Center for Education Reform (CER). “How can we compete in a global society when student’s fail at understanding the foundation of the American political system? Meanwhile students in other countries are required to master their nation’s history as a condition of graduation.”

Compared to 1998, fourth graders in 2010 gained 4 points to post a 27 percent proficiency rate in civics, while 12th graders declined a few points to 24 percent. That means that nearly three quarters of all US students cannot correctly answer basic questions about their nation, its laws and practices. While fourth graders posted the highest civics score since 1998, high school seniors in 2010 scored lower than in 2006. Eighth graders showed no significant change in overall score.

About the Civics Assessment: Students were tested on three interrelated components: civic knowledge, intellectual and participatory skills, and civic dispositions. Results were reported as average scores on a 0 to 300 scale and as percentages of students scoring at or above three achievement levels: Basic, Proficient, and Advanced. The majority of students in each grade have only been performing at Basic level. Proficient level is widely recognized as grade level.

In other news, results from Florida’s annual test, the FCAT, showed continued gains

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Lack of Math Proficiency Underscores the Need for School Options

CER Press Release
Washington, DC
October 14, 2009

American students are not being properly prepared to succeed in the global workforce and demonstrate slower progress than ever before in math proficiency, according to an evaluation of test scores under the Nation’s Report Card (NAEP) released today.

“It is a national disgrace that America’s children are flat-lining when it comes to math performance,” said Jeanne Allen, president of The Center for Education Reform (CER). “Year after year, the entrenched bureaucracies that control our nation’s public education system fail to address the math learning crisis in America. It is time for real reform. After all, how can we hope to compete in an increasingly globalized society when a grasp of basic education keystones is literally slipping through our students’ fingers?”

For the first time in the assessment’s history, fourth grade students showed no growth in math proficiency while eighth graders have shown only a slight uptick since 2003. Results also illuminate a continued achievement gap amongst ethnic groups, further showcasing a need for dramatic reform of America’s schools.

“We remain a nation gravely at risk of failure when it comes to educating every child – especially those in need,” says Jeanne Allen. “When nearly 60 percent of our kids are not proficient in math, we must not blink before embracing meaningful reforms like teacher merit pay, stronger charter laws, and higher standards. This is no longer a choice – it is a necessity.”

See also:
NAEP Math Scores 2009: National and State Statistical Highlights
NAEP Math Results Hold Bad News For NCLB, by Mark Schneider, The American Enterprise Institute

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